New York: Basketball great Shaquille O’Neal, rapper 50 Cent and TV producer Kenya Barris have joined the list of possible bidders for Paramount Global’s BET Media Group, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The three are partnering with New York-based Group Black, CVC Capital Partners and Authentic Brands Group to explore an offer for a majority stake in the business, the newspaper reported Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Group Black works with advertising agencies to direct spending to Black-owned media. A spokesperson for Paramount declined to comment. Group Black didn’t immediately respond to a request.
BET Media includes Paramount’s Black Entertainment Television cable channel, the BET+ streaming service and VH1, a cable channel that runs a number of programs popular with Black audiences.
While the traditional TV business is struggling, BET is a brand that resonates with viewers, and it works with some of the nation’s top Black entertainers.
Other interested parties include actor and producer Tyler Perry, who is an investor in the BET streaming service, and TV station owner Byron Allen. Allen told Bloomberg TV this week he thought the purchase would be a great opportunity.
“This is a phenomenal asset, they’re running a process, we’re part of it,” Allen said. “This is something that used to be Black-owned, and now this is the time for it to go back into Black ownership, which is very important.”
While profitable, the BET channel’s sales have declined over the past four years and profits have been flat, according to estimates from S&P Global Market Intelligence. The network faces the same challenges as all traditional TV companies, with audiences flocking to streaming services and canceling their cable and satellite TV subscriptions.
The BET channel generated $188.1 million in cash flow last year on $432.2 million in revenue, S&P said. VH1’s revenue has also fell. It generated $139.8 million in profit on $502.1 million in sales last year.
On Thursday, Paramount reported results that disappointed investors, including a dividend cut, and the stock cratered. The New York-based parent of CBS and other channels has been looking to sell assets to reduce debt and invest in its streaming TV business. The company is considering the sale of a majority stake in BET, which its predecessor Viacom acquired from founder Robert Johnson for about $3 billion.
Paramount CEO Bob Bakish said in March that a sale of BET is a possibility. “We’re always looking for ways to unlock value,” he told investors at a media conference.